• Sat. Dec 5th, 2020

As U.S. Schools Move to Reopen Despite Covid-19, Teachers Threaten to Strike

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Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

Educators and families around the United States continued to grapple this week with the complicated realities of opening schools in the middle of a pandemic, as teachers’ unions threatened strikes, colleges rethought reopening plans on the fly, and school districts, discovering new cases, improvised quarantines and classroom cleanings.

The voice of teachers in the reopening debate took center stage Wednesday in Michigan, where the Detroit Federation of Teachers voted to authorize their executive committee to call for a strike over plans to open public schools for in-person learning.

“It’s just simply not safe for us to return into our buildings and classrooms right now,” the union said in a video statement before the vote, noting more than 1,400 virus-related deaths in the community.

New York City’s powerful teachers’ union sought to ramp up pressure on the mayor on Wednesday to delay or call off his plan to reopen the city’s 1,800 schools on Sept. 10. The president of the United Federation of Teachers threatened to sue the city or to support a strike if the city could not satisfy a list of safety demands, and called for all students and staff members to be tested before school starts.

Public sector employees are legally barred from striking in New York, but teachers have threatened to hold sickouts if they believe school buildings are not safe.

College-bound students were thrown a curve ball Wednesday when the College Board said that more than 178,000 students who signed up to take the SAT college admission test on Aug. 29 would probably not be able to do so because nearly half the testing sites in the nation are closed or operating at limited capacity. All told, some 402,000 students were scheduled to take the test that day.

The board said it was working with local officials to accommodate as many students as possible, and asking colleges to extend their deadlines for receiving test results so students could take the test at a later date.

Some colleges and universities were backtracking as outbreaks flared on just-reopened campuses.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill moved undergraduate classes entirely online because of four clusters of infections, and the University of Notre Dame said it would move to online instruction for at least the next two weeks to control a growing outbreak. And Michigan State University, which had planned to open Sept. 2 for in-person classes, announced that all undergraduates would be learning remotely.

Sorority and fraternity houses have had outbreaks. Photos and videos circulated widely on the internet show young people gathering maskless outside bars in college towns, or partying in large numbers.

In Georgia, where some K-12 school districts opened without a mask mandate, a number of high schools closed temporarily after outbreaks were discovered.

In Florida this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis compared the commitment of teachers and administrators to the resolve of Navy SEALs going after Osama bin Laden. The state has ordered all schools to offer in-person instruction by Aug. 31, except in hard-hit Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Many students across the country will be starting school from home — and their parents will be getting little help. In a recent survey for The New York Times, just one in seven parents said their children would be returning to school full-time this fall, but four in five said they would have no in-person help educating and caring for the children at home.

Credit…Democratic National Convention

Former President Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren were among the high-profile Democratic leaders who sharply criticized President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in virtual addresses to their party’s national convention on Wednesday.

In his speech on the convention’s third night, Mr. Obama lamented the consequences of the outbreak in the United States and said that Mr. Trump had been unable to rise to the challenge.

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job, because he can’t,” Mr. Obama said, growing emotional at points as he talked about the challenges facing the country and democracy. “The consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone.”

Mr. Obama also said Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his running mate, Kamala Harris, understand that “our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic, and not just making stuff up.”

In a separate speech, Ms. Warren said that the coronavirus crisis was “on Donald Trump and the Republicans who enable him,” and that his administration would be held accountable in the November election.

“Covid-19 was Trump’s biggest test,” Ms. Warren said. “He failed miserably. Today, America has the most Covid deaths in the world, and an economic collapse. And both crises are falling hardest on Black and brown families. Millions out of work, millions more trapped in cycles of poverty. Millions on the brink of losing their homes. Millions of restaurants and stores hanging by a thread.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton framed a vote for Mr. Biden in November as one for Americans who are struggling during the pandemic.

“Vote for parents struggling to balance their child’s education and their safety,” she said. “And for health care workers fighting Covid-19 with no help from the White House.”

And late in the evening, Ms. Harris said that Mr. Trump’s “failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.”

“If you are a parent struggling with your child’s remote learning, or you are a teacher, struggling on the other side of that screen, you know what we’re doing right now is not working,” she added.

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Highlights From the Democratic National Convention: Night 3

Kamala Harris made history in accepting her official nomination for the vice presidency: She became the first woman of color to join a major party’s national ticket.

“Hey, everybody, it’s me, Kamala.” “Tonight we are going to hear from so many phenomenal women who are working to help us build that more perfect union.” “Tonight I’m thinking of the girls and boys who see themselves in America’s future because of Kamala Harris — a black woman, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, and our nominee for vice president. This is our country’s story: breaking down barriers and expanding the circle of possibility.” ♫ “I’m in love with my future, and you don’t know …” ♫ “Donald Trump’s ignorance and incompetence have always been a danger to our country. Covid-19 was Trump’s biggest test. He failed miserably. Today America has the most Covid deaths in the world and an economic collapse.” “My mom worked hard and paid taxes, and the Obama administration told her she could stay. My dad thought you would protect military families. So he voted for you in 2016, Mr. President. He says he won’t vote for you again after what you did to our family.” “The wife of a U.S. Marine veteran was deported to Mexico.” “Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart.” “My mom is a good person, and she’s not a criminal.” “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job, because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone, while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before. But more than anything, what I know about Joe, what I know about Kamala, is that they actually care about every American, and that they care deeply about this democracy. They believe that in a democracy, the right to vote is sacred, and we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballots, not harder. They understand that in this democracy, the commander in chief does not use the men and women of our military, who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation, as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil. This president and those in power, those who benefit from keeping things the way they are, they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote does not matter.” “With only one nomination received and pursuant to our rules, I hereby declare that Kamala Harris is elected as the Democratic candidate for vice president.” “She is the first black woman, first South Asian woman to be named on the Democratic ticket.” “This is a historic pick.” “Someone who looks like us on a presidential ticket, that’s crazy.” “That I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me: women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty and justice for all. This week marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. And we celebrate the women who fought for that right. Yet so many of the Black women who helped secure that victory were still prohibited from voting long after its ratification. But they were undeterred. Without fanfare or recognition, they organized and testified and rallied and marched and fought, not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table. My mother taught me that service to others gives life purpose and meaning. And oh, how I wish she were here tonight, but I know she’s looking down on me from above. I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman, all of five feet tall, who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, Calif. On that day she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now and speaking these words: I accept your nomination for vice president of the United States of America. Make no mistake: The road ahead is not easy. We may stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths, and we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.” [music and applause]

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Kamala Harris made history in accepting her official nomination for the vice presidency: She became the first woman of color to join a major party’s national ticket.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

As Mr. Obama spoke on Wednesday, Mr. Trump responded with tweets in all-caps, first repeating the baseless claim that the former president had spied on his 2016 campaign and then asking why Mr. Obama had not endorsed Mr. Biden until the Democratic primary was effectively over.

Mr. Trump’s tweets did not address the pandemic itself.

As of Wednesday evening, more than 5.5 million people in the United States have been infected with the virus and at least 172,900 have died, according to a New York Times database.

More than 42,900 cases and more than 1,200 deaths were announced in the United States on Wednesday, according to the Times database. Over the past week, there have been a nationwide average of 49,102 cases per day — a decrease of 17 percent from the average two weeks earlier, but well above what was reported in the early months of the pandemic.

Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Trump administration officials have tried taking a political sledgehammer to China over the pandemic, asserting that the Chinese Communist Party covered up the initial outbreak and allowed the virus to spread around the globe.

Updated

But within the United States government, intelligence officials have arrived at a more nuanced and complex finding of what Chinese officials did wrong in January, report Edward Wong, Julian E. Barnes and Zolan Kanno-Youngs.

Officials in Beijing were kept in the dark for weeks about the potential devastation of the virus by local officials in central China, according to American officials familiar with a new internal assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The assessment concluded that officials in the city of Wuhan and in Hubei Province, where the outbreak began late last year, tried to hide information from China’s central leadership. The finding is consistent with reporting by news organizations and with assessments by China experts of the country’s opaque governance system.

Local officials often withhold information from Beijing for fear of reprisal, current and former American officials say.

The new assessment does not contradict the Trump administration’s criticism of China, but adds perspective and context to actions — and inaction — that created the global crisis.

President Trump said in a July 4 speech at the White House that “China’s secrecy, deceptions and cover-up” enabled the pandemic, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted the administration was “telling the truth every day” about “the Communist cover-up of that virus.” The accusations dovetail with advice from Trump campaign strategists to look tough on China.

But the broad political messaging leaves an impression that Mr. Xi and other top officials knew of the dangers of the new coronavirus in the early days and went to great lengths to hide them.

The assessment, originally circulated in June, has classified and unclassified sections, and it represents the consensus of the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies. It still supports the overall notion that Communist Party officials hid important information from the world, U.S. officials said. And senior officials in Beijing, even as they were scrambling to pry data from officials in central China, played a role in obscuring the outbreak by withholding information from the World Health Organization.

But the finding adds to a body of evidence that shows how the malfeasance of local Chinese officials appeared to be a decisive factor in the spread of the virus within Wuhan and beyond.

Credit…Joao Silva/The New York Times

More than five months into the pandemic, dire predictions about how the virus will exacerbate world hunger are playing out across the globe.

In Latin America, the spread of the virus has caused nearly three times as many people to need food assistance. In West and Central Africa, the number of people faced with starvation has more than doubled. In Southern Africa, the number of people affected by food shortages has increased by 90 percent. A quarter of the adults in Britain are in search of affordable food. And in just the first three months of the pandemic, some six million people in the United States requested food stamps. These figures were presented in a report released this month from CARE, a nonprofit focused on poverty that estimates some 270 million people will face food crises by the end of the year.

In April, experts predicted that the number of people faced with the prospect of starving by the end of 2020 would nearly double globally from the previous year because of the pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, some 135 million people globally faced serious food shortages.

The world has experienced severe hunger crises before, but those were largely regional and caused by one factor or another — extreme weather, economic downturns, wars or political instability.

This hunger crisis, experts say, is global and is caused by a series of factors linked to the pandemic and the ensuing economic damages. National lockdowns and social-distancing measures have cost many people their jobs, leading to abrupt income loss for millions of people who were already living hand-to-mouth. And the battered economy has caused drops in oil prices, depleted funding revenues from tourism and halted foreign workers from sending earnings home.

Credit…Korean Central News Agency, via Reuters

North Korea said on Thursday that the triple punches of the pandemic, international sanctions and flood damage had significantly delayed plans to improve the country’s economy.

During a meeting in Pyongyang, the capital, the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party attributed the delay to “severe internal and external situations and unexpected manifold challenges,” and noted that people’s living standard had “not been improved remarkably.”

The assessment was an unprecedented admission by the isolated country that its economic plans had faltered.

When Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, took power after the death in 2011 of his father and predecessor, he vowed to ensure that his people would “never have to tighten their belt again.”

In 2016, when Mr. Kim adopted his economic plan, the North’s economy grew 3.9 percent, the highest since a devastating famine hit the country in the late 1990s, according to estimates by the South’s central bank, the Bank of Korea.

But as United Nations sanctions tightened, the North’s economy shrank 3.5 percent in 2017, according to the Bank of Korea. It contracted 4.1 percent the following year, with its exports to China plummeting 86 percent.

North Korea’s economy recovered slightly last year, growing 0.4 percent, as Pyongyang invented ways of easing the pain of the sanctions, such as smuggling banned cargo across the Chinese border at night or between ships on the high seas.

But this year, the coronavirus forced the country to shut down the border with China, which had accounted for more than 90 percent of the North’s external trade. North Korea’s exports to China plummeted to $27 million in the first half of this year, a 75 percent drop from a year earlier, according to the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. Imports from China dropped 67 percent, to $380 million.

In his speech at the Workers’ Party meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Kim said the North faced “unexpected and inevitable challenges” this year, and critiqued the “achievements and shortcomings” of his own government, the state news media reported. The central committee decided to convene the new party congress, North Korea’s biggest political decision-making event, in January to set forth “strategic and tactical policies.”

But so far, Mr. Kim has shown no sign of backing down on his nuclear weapons program.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

Credit…Pool photo by Jerome Delay

South Africa, Africa’s economic powerhouse, responded to the pandemic by announcing the largest relief effort in the country’s history.

But the undertaking has been dogged by allegations of widespread corruption and mismanagement, undermining confidence in a government that had initially received international acclaim for its response to the pandemic. The governing African National Congress party imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns and introduced a raft of social measures and an economic stimulus package to mitigate the devastating economic fallout.

That relief effort has now become a source of embarrassment for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected on a platform of stamping out corruption. He has been forced to reassure the public that aid will be delivered, and that those aiming to profit from it — including members of his own party — would be punished.

The scandal, which has dominated airwaves and talk shows in recent weeks, includes allegations that government leaders and politically connected cronies have siphoned off money meant for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and that local councilors have stymied food distribution efforts by policing deliveries.

“Never in our history have we seen such a huge request for food,” said Imtiaz Sooliman, the founder of Gift of Givers, a nongovernmental organization that has distributed relief for nearly three decades. “It’s not only a request, it’s a pleading, it’s a sobbing, it’s a crying.

In other developments around the world:

  • Health officials in China issued new guidelines on Thursday that exempt residents of Beijing, the capital, from wearing masks outdoors unless they come into close contact with strangers. The country has reported fewer than 300 infections over the past week, according to a Times database.

  • In a tweet, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry weighed in on images of a recent pool-party rave in Wuhan — the city where the pandemic began — that have touched a nerve in countries where many people remain under lockdown. “The city only emerges stronger,” she wrote. Global Times, a popular state-run tabloid, also said that international criticism of the party amounted to “foreign sour grapes.”

  • The number of cases worldwide has passed 22 million, according to a New York Times database. More than 780,000 people have died.

  • President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has tackled the virus by deploying his repressive security apparatus against it. Government officials are denouncing people who may have come into contact with the coronavirus as “bioterrorists,” intimidating doctors who question Mr. Maduro’s policies, and corralling thousands of Venezuelans who are streaming home after losing jobs abroad, holding them in makeshift containment centers.

  • The head of the organization responsible for approving vaccines in Germany expects the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine to be available in the country by the beginning of next year. On Tuesday, Germany recorded 1,510 new cases, according to a Times database, the country’s highest daily total since the beginning of May.

  • Pope Francis said on Wednesday that a vaccine should be made universally available, especially to the poor. The pandemic, he said, was a crisis that could help improve the world by leading it address the “social injustice, lack of equal opportunity and marginalization of the poor.” He said, “We must come out better.”

  • Finland announced that it would tighten restrictions on incoming travelers starting Monday. Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said that travel from Iceland, Greece, Malta, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, San Marino and Japan would be limited to essential trips, according to Reuters. Finland has some of the most severe travel restrictions in Europe and has recorded 7,805 cases, a relatively low number.

  • Britain announced a rapid expansion of one of its testing programs, which selects a random sample of the population regardless of symptoms. The survey, which currently tests 28,000 people every two weeks in England, will be expanded to all parts of the United Kingdom, and a new target has been set of testing 150,000 people every two weeks by October. At least 41,000 people have died in Britain, which has struggled in its efforts to track down those who have been exposed.

  • The Australian government has signed a deal with the drugmaker AstraZeneca to secure a potential vaccine, and promised to offer it free to its 25 million citizens if clinical trials were successful.

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Australia’s Prime Minister Announces Coronavirus Vaccine Deal

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia signed a deal with the drugmaker AstraZeneca to manufacture a coronavirus vaccine and provide it free to 25 million Australians.

We’re here today to announce that we’ve signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca which will enable Australia to access, should it be successful, the vaccine for Covid-19 here in Australia, manufactured here in Australia, distributed free to 25 million Australians, in the event that those trials prove successful. The next step in these arrangements is to see how those trials go, to complete the manufacturing agreements, and they are well advanced, and I feel very positive about those, and then to identify, as I said, other potential vaccine prospects that Australia can partner with. This particular vaccine, it’s an unproven technology so far, but the initial results are very positive in terms of both efficacy so the effectiveness of the vaccine will be trialled in larger groups of human trials over the coming months, but the efficacy in terms of developing antibodies against coronavirus has been shown to be true, as well as the safety in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia signed a deal with the drugmaker AstraZeneca to manufacture a coronavirus vaccine and provide it free to 25 million Australians.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Nick Moir
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

German tourists took an unauthorized dip in the Grand Canal in Venice, under the Rialto Bridge. An Austrian tourist broke the toe of a plaster statue of Napoleon’s sister while posing for a photograph at a museum in northern Italy. A French tourist was caught red-handed using a black felt-tip pen to immortalize her stay in Florence on the city’s famed Ponte Vecchio.

Now, Italian officials have set their sights on a young woman who took a selfie standing atop some newly reopened thermal baths in Pompeii, the fragile archaeological site.

The coronavirus pandemic may have crushed the tourism industry in Italy this year — delivering a significant blow to the country’s economy — but Italians say that should not give tourists who do come a free pass to run amok among the country’s cultural treasures.

“There’s a question of vigilance, but also of the unpreparedness of visitors,” read an editorial published on Tuesday in the Rome daily La Repubblica. “What happened in Pompeii shows that the path to educating those who visit museums is still dotted with difficulties and unforeseen events,” a nod to countless episodes of vandalism and damage caused to cultural treasures by visiting tourists.

Lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament introduced a bill last month that would toughen penalties for those convicted of destroying Italy’s artistic patrimony. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has been trying to put such a law on the books since 2016, but has not managed to get approval from both houses of Parliament.

U.S. ROUNDUP

Credit…Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

In a rare moment of admission, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York acknowledged at least one shortcoming in his handling of the coronavirus response: His administration should have mandated mask wearing sooner, he said on Wednesday.

“I should have done it earlier,” said Mr. Cuomo, who mandated face coverings in mid-April at the peak of the outbreak in New York, where more than 30,000 people have died from the virus. “I should have done masks earlier. That would have made a dramatic difference.”

Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, has mostly blamed the federal government for allowing the virus to spread unknowingly early on, even as he has been criticized for mishandling the outbreak in the state’s nursing homes and for failing to shut down businesses and schools earlier in March. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began urging all Americans to wear a mask in early April.

The governor also said that, early on, the government had failed to recognize that asymptomatic individuals could spread the disease. That mode of transmission has since been widely recognized.

“We were wrong that people who didn’t have symptoms could infect other people,” he said on WAMC, an Albany radio station. “That was just wrong. We spent months saying ‘You have to be sneezed on or coughed on.’ That was just wrong.”

Mr. Cuomo also suggested that he might allow movie theaters to reopen soon with limits on capacity. He recently announced that gyms and bowling alleys across the state, and museums in New York City, could start reopening this month.

On Tuesday, New York City released more than 1.46 million coronavirus antibody test results, the largest number to date, providing more evidence of how the virus penetrated deeply into some lower-income communities while passing more lightly across affluent parts of the city.

Elsewhere in the United States:

  • Officials in Iowa are correcting a major reporting error in the state’s Covid-19 test-results database after the state mislabeled test-result dates for thousands of people, obscuring the true rate of infection. Pat Garrett, a spokesman for Gov. Kim Reynolds, acknowledged the error in a statement on Wednesday, saying that the state had not recorded accurate data for people who had received multiple Covid-19 tests. He said the state would update its public Covid-19 dashboard with the corrected data.

  • In Puerto Rico, where cases have been trending upward, Gov. Wanda Vázquez said she was imposing a lockdown that will apply on Sundays through Sept. 11. Violators of the island’s mask order will be subject to a $100 fine. A nightly curfew remains in effect. Under the new Sunday order, Puerto Ricans will be allowed to leave their homes that day for only a handful of reasons, like going to grocery stores, pharmacies or hospitals, or working in essential services. Alcohol sales will be banned and beaches closed. Though houses of worship will be allowed to remain open at 25 percent capacity, Ms. Vázquez urged that religious services be held online.

  • In California, the virus has only complicated officials’ efforts to deal with power outages, an oppressive heat wave and raging fires. Across the state, there were 23 major fires reported on Wednesday and more than 300 smaller ones. “We have to deal with a worldwide pandemic,” said Mark Ghilarducci, the director of the state’s office of emergency services. “In a fire season. With the power off. What else do you want from us?”

  • Apple reached $2 trillion in value, with half added in the past 21 weeks, while the global economy shrank faster than ever amid the pandemic.

  • The 4,600 midshipmen, or students, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., began a mix of online and in-person classes on Wednesday, but not all of them will be on campus right away. About 500 students will be housed off campus because dormitory space has been set aside for those who may need to quarantine. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which has more space, allowed all its cadets to be on campus when classes began Monday.

  • The University of Notre Dame in Indiana, which moved to online instruction after a surge of cases, said Wednesday that it was pausing football practice for at least a day “in an abundance of caution.” The announcement came less than a day after Notre Dame said that athletic activities would continue during the university’s two-week run of remote learning. The football team is scheduled to begin its season on Sept. 12.

  • Nevada reported on Wednesday that were 32 new deaths, a single-day record for the state.

Credit…Gotpap/Bauer-Griffin, via GC Images

The City of Los Angeles cut the power at a Hollywood Hills mansion rented by the TikTok stars Bryce Hall, Noah Beck and Blake Gray on Wednesday in response to parties held at the residence amid the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Hall hosted a party for his 21st birthday on Aug. 14; footage from the event posted to Instagram shows dozens of people crowded together in one room. After neighbors called in noise complaints, the event was shut down by the Los Angeles Police Department.

That party took place at a rental home in Encino, not the Hollywood Hills home where the power was turned off on Wednesday, though Mr. Hall has hosted parties there, too. (Mr. Hall declined to comment for this article.)

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles mayor’s office confirmed that the city had cut the power at Mr. Hall’s residence. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that the city had been authorized to disconnect utilities, which include water and gas.

“Despite several warnings, this house has turned into a nightclub in the hills, hosting large gatherings in flagrant violation of our public health orders,” Mr. Garcetti said in the statement. “The city has now disconnected utilities at this home to stop these parties that endanger our community.”

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senate Republicans are circulating text of a narrow virus relief package that would spend less money, in fewer areas, than earlier offers, including reviving extra unemployment benefits at half the original rate.

The draft measure appears to be an effort to break through the political stalemate over providing another round of economic stimulus to Americans during the pandemic. And it comes at a time when rank-and-file lawmakers from both parties who are facing re-election have grown increasingly uneasy with the lack of congressional action.

The latest offer, however, is unlikely to alter the debate in Washington, where Democrats have repeatedly rejected previous Republican offers as insufficient.

Among the considerations in the new legislation is providing $105 billion for schools as students have begun returning to classes, and establishing liability protections — a longtime priority for the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — that Mr. Trump has dismissed as not essential.

But the proposal drops one of the few areas of bipartisan consensus from the original Republican plan and something Mr. Trump has said he wants to see: a second round of direct payments to low- and middle-income Americans.

It was not clear whether senators, currently scattered across the country until early September for the annual summer recess, will vote on the measure anytime soon.

Federal Reserve officials have emphasized the need for continuing economic assistance. Minutes from a meeting last month show that a major point of discussion was the importance of additional fiscal policy support — in other words, money from Congress — which Fed officials noted was “uncertain” in the short term.

The July 28-29 meeting took place just before government support programs lapsed, including enhanced unemployment benefits. More than two weeks later, it remains unclear whether and when additional government support for newly unemployed Americans and struggling businesses will materialize.

Ms. Pelosi called House members back early from their summer recess to vote Saturday on legislation addressing changes to the Postal Service and providing $25 billion to the beleaguered agency, and dozens of House lawmakers have signed on to a letter asking for a second vote on Saturday, on legislation that would revive the $600 weekly federal benefit.

A fishing vessel that left Seattle in May returned with an unexpected catch: the first direct evidence in humans that antibodies to the coronavirus can thwart infection.

More than 100 crew members aboard the American Dynasty were stricken by the infection over 18 days at sea. But only three sailors, all of whom initially carried antibodies, remained virus-free, according to a new report.

Although the study is small, it addresses one of the most important questions in the pandemic: whether the immune response to one bout with the virus protects against reinfection.

“Knowing the answer to this question is critical for vaccine design and epidemiology,” tweeted Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and one of the study’s authors.

The American Dynasty carried 113 men and nine women. All crew members had been tested for both virus and antibodies as part of a routine screening before setting sail. (The researchers did not have access to the results from two members.)

The trawler returned to shore after 18 days at sea when a crew member became ill enough to need hospitalization. The sailors were tested for the presence of virus and antibodies again and for up to 50 days after their return.

The three sailors who were confirmed to carry neutralizing antibodies did not test positive for the virus during the course of the study; 103 of the remaining 117 became infected.

“Just looking at the numbers, it becomes clear that it’s unlikely that all of these three people were protected by chance,” said Florian Krammer, an immunologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Federal health officials announced a nationwide plan on Monday to begin testing sewage for the virus, as a potential measure of where the virus is spreading and at what rate. Infected people can pass the virus in their feces, and scientists are able to detect its levels in samples of wastewater from local sewage treatment centers.

In a statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it “is currently developing a portal for state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to submit wastewater testing data into a national database for use in summarizing and interpreting data for public health action.” The program is intended to complement other measures, like clinical testing, not to replace them, the statement read.

Public health workers have analyzed sewage to track other viral outbreaks, like polio, for decades. The technology has advanced to a stage where it can estimate levels of the virus, providing a rough read on the prevalence of infections in an entire community.

The new initiative came days after New York’s governor announced a $500,000 wastewater testing pilot that would begin with samples from Albany, Newburgh and Buffalo, as well as from Onondaga County. On Tuesday, New York City’s mayor said that the city was eager to participate as the program expanded.

“The city is especially well positioned to use this technology because of our infrastructure,” he said.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Last week, just as the Food and Drug Administration was preparing to issue an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a Covid-19 treatment, a group of top federal health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, intervened, arguing that emerging data on the treatment was too weak, according to two senior administration officials.

The authorization is on hold for now as more data is reviewed, according to H. Clifford Lane, the clinical director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. An emergency approval could still be issued in the near future, he said.

Donated by people who have survived the disease, antibody-rich plasma is considered safe. President Trump has hailed it as a “beautiful ingredient” in the veins of people who have survived Covid-19.

But clinical trials have not proved whether plasma can help people fighting the coronavirus.

Several top health officials — led by Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, and including Dr. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Lane — urged their colleagues last week to hold off, citing recent data from the country’s largest plasma study, run by the Mayo Clinic. They thought the study’s data was not strong enough to warrant an emergency approval.

Plasma, the pale yellow liquid left over after blood is stripped of its red and white cells, has been the subject of months of intense enthusiasm from scientists, celebrities and Mr. Trump, part of the administration’s push for coronavirus treatments as a stopgap while pharmaceutical companies race to complete dozens of clinical trials for vaccines.

Officials in Iowa are correcting a major reporting error in the state’s Covid-19 test results database after the state mislabeled test result dates for thousands of people, obscuring the true rate of infection.

Pat Garrett, a spokesman for Gov. Kim Reynolds, acknowledged the error in a statement on Wednesday, saying that the state had not recorded accurate data for people who had received multiple Covid-19 tests.

Rather than recording the date of a person’s most recent test, the state automatically recorded the result — whether positive or negative — as occurring on the date when the person was first tested.

Mr. Garrett said the state would update its public Covid-19 dashboard today with the corrected data. As a result, he said, nearly 80 percent of counties will see a net decrease in their current 14-day positivity rate, and the remaining counties will see their current 14-day positivity rates increase by less than 1 percent, on average.

The error came to public light this week after Dana Jones, a nurse practitioner in Iowa City, noticed irregularities in the state’s Covid-19 data and alerted the state and media outlets.

Top House Democrats called on Wednesday for a congressional watchdog agency to investigate the way the Trump administration is collecting coronavirus information, saying they are concerned that abrupt shifts in hospital reporting requirements are generating flawed data and “undermine the nation’s Covid-19 response.”

The Democrats — Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and two subcommittee chairwomen, Representatives Anna G. Eshoo of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado — made the request in a letter, not yet made public, sent Wednesday morning to the head of the Government Accountability Office, an independent and nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.

A G.A.O. spokeswoman said it had received the request, but no decisions have been made.

The lawmakers objected to a July order from the Department of Health and Human Services for hospitals to stop reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and instead send information on caseloads, deaths, bed capacity and other aspects of the response, to TeleTracking Technologies, a private vendor based in Pittsburgh. Experts say the switch has been burdensome for hospitals and have raised questions about the reliability of the data, but H.H.S. officials say the switch was necessary to streamline data collection and increase reporting.

The letter outlined three areas of inquiry: What “benefits or challenges” did the new reporting requirements have on the government’s response; how has the administration “monitored, tracked and aggregated data” through its various reporting systems; and “what was the timeline” that led to the decision to replace the C.D.C. system with the one run by TeleTracking?

“Not only have H.H.S.’s actions seemingly sidelined the nation’s top public health officials, but they have also reportedly led to unnecessary confusion, additional burden on critical Covid-19 response professionals, and the loss of timely and reliable data, all in the midst of the pandemic when people’s lives are at stake,” the lawmakers wrote.

Credit…Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Military discipline gives the nation’s service academies one advantage over civilian colleges: They can give students direct orders, and not just ask for compliance with safety precautions. But in many other ways, their traditions and long heritage creates complications, especially at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

When the midshipmen — the academy’s students — begin classes on Wednesday, not all of them will be seated in classrooms. And in what may be a first for the school, which was founded in 1845, not all will even be on campus — at least not right away.

Ordinarily, all midshipmen live in a single dormitory: Bancroft Hall, a sprawling building with eight wings. But this year, one wing has been set aside to quarantine students exposed to the virus and isolate those who contract it. (The nearest military hospital is 38 miles away.)

So the academy plans to house about 500 midshipmen off campus in the surrounding area — a major departure for a tightly guarded institution accustomed to curfews and strict discipline. The academy said it expected to bring the remainder of its midshipmen to Annapolis by mid-September.

The Naval Academy fills 338 acres, some of it reclaimed from the Severn River — a much tighter space than the U.S. Military Academy’s 16,000 acres at West Point, N.Y., and the Air Force Academy’s 18,000-plus acres in Colorado Springs, Colo.

With so much more space, the Army allowed all 4,400 cadets to be on campus when classes began Monday. Unlike Annapolis, West Point had several spare barracks available; two have been made ready to quarantine students if needed, and one has been converted to serve as an isolation ward. The Keller Army Community Hospital, with a 16-bed intensive care unit and a supply of ventilators, is on the post and can care for cadets who come down with Covid-19, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt, an Army spokesman.

Cmdr. Alana Garas, a Navy spokeswoman, said that, wherever they are, all 4,600 midshipmen will be taking classes offered in a “hybrid” fashion, combining in-person and online instruction.

The Air Force Academy, a much younger institution established in the 1950s, did not respond to queries about its pandemic precautions.

The Pentagon prohibits the academies from releasing the exact number of midshipmen and cadets who have contracted the coronavirus, but both Annapolis and West Point have reported an infection rate of less than two percent among students.

New York City on Tuesday released more than 1.46 million coronavirus antibody test results, the largest number to date, providing more evidence of how the virus penetrated deeply into some lower-income communities while passing more lightly across affluent parts of the city.

In one ZIP code in Queens, more than 50 percent of people who had gotten tested were found to have antibodies, a strikingly high rate. But no ZIP code south of 96th Street in Manhattan had a positive rate of more than 20 percent.




Percent of people tested with Covid-19

antibodies in New York City, by ZIP code

Upper West Side

East Elmhurst

STATEN ISLAND

Borough Park

Percent of people tested with Covid-19 antibodies in New York City, by ZIP code

STATEN ISLAND


Source: N.Y.C. Department of Health

By Matthew Bloch

Across the city, more than 27 percent of those tested had positive antibody results. The borough with the highest rate was the Bronx, at 33 percent. Manhattan had the lowest rate, at 19 percent.

The data is likely to renew discussion about whether some neighborhoods or communities in New York City may be nearing herd immunity — the point at which enough people have immunity that the virus is no longer able to spread widely within a community.

Much remains unknown about the degree of protection against Covid-19 that antibodies may offer, or how long that protection may last. But the neighborhoods with more residents who were infected at the height of New York’s outbreak in March and April may be less likely to be among the hardest hit during a second wave.

On the other hand, neighborhoods in which few residents have been infected may find themselves more vulnerable in the event of a resurgence.

Some researchers have expressed hope that herd immunity for the virus may only require about half of the people in a given community to have immunity — while others have suggested a higher threshold, like 70 percent.

Reporting was contributed by Sarah Almukhtar, Peter Baker, Alan Blinder, Alexander Burns, Benedict Carey, Choe Sang-Hun, Lynsey Chutel, Emily Cochrane, Nick Corasaniti, Thomas Erdbrink, Richard Fausset, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sheri Fink, Jacey Fortin, Katie Glueck, Joseph Goldstein, Jason Gutierrez, Anemona Hartocollis, Isayen Herrera, John Ismay, Mike Ives, Jennifer Jett, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Sharon LaFraniere, Taylor Lorenz, Veronica Majerol, Apoorva Mandavilli, Alex Marshall, Jonathan Martin, Patricia Mazzei, Tiffany May, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Nagourney, Eric Nagourney, Jack Nicas, Elisabetta Povoledo, Frances Robles, Anna Schaverien, Christopher F. Schuetze, Eliza Shapiro, Jeanna Smialek, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Tankersley, Sheyla Urdaneta, Noah Weiland and Elaine Yu.